Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Focal Concerns Theory
J. Mitchell Miller
Walter B. Miller presented a pure cultural theory of gang delinquency in 1958 that has been generalized to the lower class. His theory, proposed in a short article titled “Lower Class Culture as a Generating Milieu of Gang Delinquency,” submitted that the lower class subscribed to a distinct criminogenic culture. Miller's explanation of delinquency is situated in depressed inner cities, wherein the majority of households are headed by females, implying that traditional values are not instilled because of inadequate discipline and role-modeling. Without middle-class values, the lower class operates according to focal concerns. Specified as trouble, toughness, smartness, excitement, fate, and autonomy, these concerns devalue conventional values and lead to gang formation. Smartness refers to the ability to “con” someone in real-life situations and brings respect for successful hustlers and con artists. A belief in fate—in predetermined outcomes—undermines the work ethic and sabotages self-improvement. Deviance is normal and to Evaluation ...